Snoods aren’t dangerous, they’re just poncey

Snoods may be a crime against fashion but, whatever FIFA says to the contrary, they are not a health-and-safety issue.

Duleep Allirajah

Topics Politics

The Snood Wars have taken a new twist. But which side should we be on? Is it a fashion statement or a style faux pas? A winter warmer or safety hazard?

It all seemed so simple a couple of months ago when I first wrote about football’s craze for the snood, which is a cross between a scarf and hood. The battle lines were clear cut: real men vs pampered softies. But now I’m not so sure.

Why? Because the football authorities are thinking of imposing a ban on snoods. Is this a style decree on FIFA chief Sepp Blatter’s part? Or does FIFA see a new role for itself as the governing body for masculine identity? In actual fact, it’s neither of the above. Next month, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) – custodians of the laws of the game – will discuss whether snoods should be outlawed on health and safety grounds. ‘We want a debate over the snood and whether it could be dangerous’, explained a FIFA spokesman. ‘There may be a safety issue – if, for example, a player was running through on goal and an opponent grabbed his snood, that could pose a potential danger to his neck.’

Never mind the offside rule, which FIFA has rendered incomprehensible. Never mind the absurdity of handing out cautions to players who remove their shirts or excessively celebrate a goal. No, the burning question of the day is whether snoods are dangerous. The IFAB meeting promises to be cracking. Also on the agenda is whether players’ tights should match the colour of their shorts and clearer guidance on whether play should be stopped if an object, such as a ball or an animal, comes on to the pitch. It’s reassuring to see that the custodians of football’s hallowed laws have their priorities right. Not.

It would, of course, be remiss of me not to assess the potential risk of a snood-related injury. What then is the foundation for FIFA’s safety fears? Are there any recorded incidents of footballers being garrotted by their own snoods? Of course there aren’t. It’s a bit like the Stamford Bridge celery ban which I wrote about in 2007. There was a hypothetical risk, but not a single documented example of a celery-related injury.

We do, however, live in risk-averse times, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the theoretical possibility of snood-related strangulation was to trump common sense. If the traditional snood – and I used the word traditional in its loosest sense here – were to be banned from football, will we see a new generation of quick-release snoods that snap open like a cat’s collar or a policeman’s tie?

As I said, taking sides in the snood wars used to be a black and white question. On the one hand stood the traditionalists: advocates of the ‘snoods are for wimps’ school of thought. Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly banned his players from wearing snoods. ‘U won’t see a Man Utd player wearing a SNOOD’, tweeted United captain Rio Ferdinand. Former Old Trafford hard man Roy Keane has criticised players who wear snoods. ‘They’ve all gone soft. I don’t know how they do it and focus on the game, it’s weird.’

On the other hand are the new generation of metrosexual footballers. They wax their chests, cover their bodies in tattoos and wear gloves, snoods and tights to keep warm. Arsenal and Manchester City are the worst offenders. Foreign players were the early adopters, but now even English footballers like Ashley Young are snooding up. No one doubts the technical skills of the snood-wearers. It’s their psychological strength that’s questionable. The snood signifies that they don’t really fancy it.

Music writer Paolo Hewitt has launched a spirited defence of the snood in the Guardian blog. Hewitt sees the snood as the latest must-have in a long tradition of footballing dandyism which can be traced back to the ‘West Ham mod team of the 60s’. The key moment, Hewitt argues, was the abolition of the maximum wage in 1961. ‘Within five years, footballers’ wage packets had blown out like balloons’, he argues. ‘Many of them were working class and the working class do like their clobber. So they started splashing out in the boutiques.’

Hewitt’s mod credentials are unimpeachable, but there is one fatal flaw in his argument – namely the football snood is not a style garment. No self-respecting mod should ever be seen dead in one. It’s the style equivalent of those ‘his and hers’ fleeces you see advertised in Sunday colour supplements; the sort of thing D-Cam or Nick Clegg might wear.

Snoods are wrong on so many levels. But when Blatter & Co are threatening a ban, should we stand in solidarity with the snood-wearers? Should we defend the inalienable right of a footballer to dress like a big jessie? What would Voltaire have made of all this, I wonder? Actually I don’t see the snood question as a civil-liberties issue. No one’s suggesting that wearing a snood in public should be criminalised. The laws of football stipulate what footballers can and can’t wear, so I’ve no problem with snoods falling within IFAB’s jurisdiction.

What is wrong, however, is the use of spurious health-and-safety arguments to justify a ban. Banning something because there might be a hypothetical risk of harm sets a dangerous precedent. If we follow this logic, we’ll end up banning tackling altogether, an idea that UEFA president Michel Platini once toyed with. So Mr Blatter, by all means ban the snood because it’s poncey, just don’t try to kid us that it’s a safety issue.

Duleep Allirajah is spiked’s sports columnist.

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Topics Politics


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